Scott Nichols
Latest answers

What will be your Rock Band 4 band name? I vote for "Perpetual Loop of Envy".

Sean Riley

I never really got into the Rock Band games, so I doubt I'll even play Rock Band 4. That said, "David Bowie and the Shining Force" has a nice ring to it.

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More satisfying, stomping goombas or stomping koopas?

Koopas in the 2D Mario games, but goombas are more satisfying in the 3D games because koopa shells are harder to aim and goombas have a great squashing animation. I also actually felt kind of bad for koopas in Mario 3D World on Wii U, since they get so scared and sad when you knock their shell off :(

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David Gaider's departure from Dragon Age gave away that Bioware are making a completely new franchise. What genre/setting would you like to see them attempt?

Sean Riley

Mako Kart?

I mean, it's Bioware so I'd be shocked if it's not an RPG. Honestly, I'd love to see them make a high school RPG. Persona minus the dungeon crawling, or a non-Rockstar-ized version of Bully, would be the elevator pitch. I feel like there's still a lot of untapped potential there. Social cliques could take the place of more traditional character classes, while players have to manage between coursework, clubs, sports, friendships, and home life. Lots of room for interesting interactions based on player choices, and it could even lead to a point where your character has to navigate coming out of the closet to their parents. Plus, high school maturity seems about right for Bioware's animators when it comes to romance plots and sex scenes.

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Is Kojima out?

Of his mind? Yeah, but that's nothing new.

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Was in a quandry with Offworld Trading Company as I didn't want to support a GG proponent (Brad Wardell, Stardock) but did want to support a designer I really like (Soren Johnsen). Ended up getting the game as I figured it was better to support people I like. Not so much a question, but thoughts?

Ok? Sounds like you answered your own question there, so, uh, congrats?

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do you have bloodborne?

Not yet. I'm actually kind of glad I'm not reviewing Bloodborne so I don't have to worry about rushing through it. I've been seeing it pop up on my PSN friends list a bunch lately though, and I'm eager to hear what they think about it when reviews go up.

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If you could collaborate with other freelancers on a super secret project, what would the project be and who would you want to work with?

Well if it's a super secret project then it wouldn't do me any good to tell you about it now, would it?

There is one collaborative project I've actually talked to another critic about doing, but we're both so busy that it never really gets further than idle talk. But if there's a lot of demand for a book analyzing El Shaddai from two critics with Christian and Jewish backgrounds respectively, then maybe some day that collaboration will happen.

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I need to canceled my account but I forgot the password so what i can do :/ ?

A good start would probably be to look up the proper way to contact whichever service your account is with and send them an email. Good luck with that!

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When playing a game for review, do you approach it any differently than when playing for personal enjoyment on your own time? Do you have a more critical approach?

I'm at a point where I can't really turn off the "critical approach" when playing a game, whether it's for a review or on my own. I'm actually ok with this, since I get just as much enjoyment, sometimes more, from thinking about and dissecting games in my head as I do from actually playing them.

That said, I do go a step further if I'm playing a game for a review, since I'll also take notes on a pad of paper while I play to make sure I don't forget details that might become interesting or relevant for the review itself. I also tend to play for longer stretches of time when playing for a review. So while I might play a game in two-hour bursts when playing on my own time, I'll play a review game in 5-6 hour sessions or longer (or shorter if it's a horror game that's constantly building tension).

Yeah, sorry, not too exciting. Other than the rate at which I play the game and having paper handy for notes, there isn't really that much difference from how I approach games for review compared to for my own personal time.

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What was it like working with Ragtag?

Kyle Mack

Amazing and illuminating. I normally don't get such behind-the-scenes access to a game, so it was a real eye opener to work on a game for the first time. Getting to see all of the inner workings and iteration of development, then actually contributing toward shaping the overall narrative and puzzling through how to best tie the narrative together with the level progression and introduction of new mechanics. Like, getting to talk with the team about things like how to best use narrative elements to mask tutorials to make a more naturally flowing experience for the player.

Their approach to the game's narrative was so refreshing and so much what I've always hoped developers do when plotting out their games. It's not just making a game and then slapping a narrative onto it, but making sure that everything is tightly tied together so that a change to the script can have a ripple effect on level structure, enemy placement, puzzle layout, or boss attack patterns. Obviously I'm not going to give any specific examples, but suffice it to say that it was an extraordinary experience, and one that I hope to repeat by working on narrative design for more games going forward.

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Have you ever had conflicts with your colleagues?

Yeah, probably 99% of which have been my fault for being slow to respond to an email.

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Where would you like to work?

Answer 1: USGamer/Eurogamer, when it comes to sites that I haven't already worked for. Both are my go-to mainstream sites for reviews and interesting features. I think they have some of the best mainstream game criticism out there, and I would be thrilled to have my writing counted among either site's fantastic body of work.

Answer 2: Any publication that can offer me a full-time staff position with medical benefits. I've only been working freelance full-time for 3 years, and it is exhausting. While obviously there are some publications I'd rather write for than others, if I'm being honest with myself... if a site came along offering 35K+ salary and benefits I'd probably accept the offer without hesitation.

Answer 3: Telltale. There's still a part of me that wants to get back to writing fiction and bring that into game narrative design. I've even started branching out in that direction with some contract narrative work for indie developers (ok, indie developer singular, but hopefully more soon). But even then it's still freelance work, and if I'm thinking of a full-time narrative design job I think Telltale is the dream studio right now.

Answer 4: At a zoo/aquarium as the penguin caretaker. I think penguin caretaker would probably be the single most perfect job to have. Unfortunately, I don't have the proper veterinary education and training to ever have that job, nor could I ever hope to afford going back to school for that education and training on what I make freelancing, but penguin caretaker would be my ultimate dream job.

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Are you married to the person you love?

Nope. We're living in sin.

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Did you know that most of your answers are too long?

No.

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Do you sometimes ask yourself questions on ask.fm?

If I'm answering my own question then that's called an editorial, and I prefer to get paid for those so I'd pitch it to some publication rather than write it here. If the pitch doesn't take, then I'd either do an editorial for my personal blog or just end up putting it into the form of a twitter rant.

I already have ways to write pieces where I answer my own questions, and ask.fm is probably the writing format I use that gets the least attention/traffic, so there would be no reason for me to bring that here. Anyway, the whole point of me using ask.fm is to field questions from other people.

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What was the happiest moment for you this year?

Moving into a new apartment with someone I love.

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At no time during this whole debacle, have you explicitly denied having sex with the game developer, Zoe Quinn. Is this because you don't want people to know, or have you simply decided that offering a preemptive denial, before any accusations have even been levelled at you; would be very confusing?

...that semicolon.

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What scares you?

Needles and heights are my two biggest fears. Dogs used to be up there too, but I'm slowly getting over that one.

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Do your colleagues envy you?

I sure hope they don't, since I already envy most of my colleagues and that would just mean there is a perpetual loop of envy.

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What do you think drives this persistent idea that purely mechanical criticism is in some way more "objective" than narrative/social criticism? The notion seems to have a lot of traction, but doesn't make much sense to me- a writer's opinion of how a game's mechanics fit together is still a subjecti

Part of the problem comes from our language when discussing games. What comes to mind from the word "mechanics?" Mechanical. Machines. Appliances. Things with an on/off switch. It either works or doesn't. The word "mechanics" evokes a very binary view, suggesting something that can be objectively measured. However, when we are talking about game mechanics, that is not how the word is typically used.

"Mechanics" in reference to games is meant to evoke a machine metaphor, but a very different one. It's meant to suggest that a game is made of many element and, like cogs in a machine, those elements act on each other and in concert with one another to form how you play the game. The key is the "working in concert with each other" part, with the review serving the purpose of analyzing the cog arrangement. Sure, there could be an arrangement of cogs that allows a machine to work, but maybe there are cogs left unnecessarily rotating in place without really helping the overall machine. Or maybe the cogs are arranged in a very inefficient way that doesn't make good use of the limited space within the machine's chassis even though the machine still technically works. Or maybe the cog arrangement is so beautifully elegant that the reviewer just sits back in awe at the whole contraption.

Hopefully you were able to follow my extended machine metaphor, but the gist is that there is more to reviewing a machine than simply whether or not it works. For a reviewer, whether or not it works is secondary to figuring out and analyzing the process that allows it to work or not. And that can be extremely subjective. What might seem unnecessarily convoluted to one reviewer might make perfect sense to another. Now ditching the metaphor, what might be fun to play for one reviewer might be miserably dull for another. It's why some people prefer Smash Bros Brawl over Melee. It's why some people prefer Tekken over Street Fighter. It's why some people prefer Battlefield over Call of Duty. And vice versa in all of those cases. There are subjective tastes in game mechanics just as there are subjective tastes in narrative content.

Perhaps, like "gameplay" before it, it is time to retire use of "mechanics" if it is the cause of this confusion. Though perhaps I'm just scratching the surface of the problem since there were still people demanding objective reviews based purely on mechanics before the word mechanics was in such common usage.

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Ok lets not use the tag Gamergate for this question. In your opinion is there any kind of corruption rolling in the gaming industry, if yes, care to give some examples ?

Just so you know, by saying "let's not use the tag for this question" what I hear is "this is totally still me asking a gamergate question but you just responded to a question lecturing about lumping into a movement so I'm going to pretend to disassociate from it even though I'm still totally on board and not disassociating at all." If you're going to disassociate from gamergate it's not just a matter of "let's pretend I"m not asking as a part of the movement" it's "this movement is gross but I still have legitimate concerns."

Anyway....

To your question, the only example of corruption I can point to actual current examples of comes from sites that charge developers in order to review their games. It almost exclusively happens at small sites that review iPhone or mobile games, probably because they don't get enough web traffic to cover their site's upkeep costs with ads. That's still not an excuse though. It's extortion of developers, plain and simple. A fairly comprehensive list of sites to avoid because they engage in this practice can be found here: http://www.appynation.com/hall-of-infamy/.

I'm sure that's not what you were asking about though. You want dirt on the big sites. The Polygons and Kotukus. The truth is, there isn't a single example of game journalist corruption I can provide examples for from those sites. Not more recently than the GameSpot/Kane and Lynch debacle at least, and that's not really a relevant example indicative of the current game journalism climate. Maybe there are some instances, but none that I'm privy to that have any traction beyond unreliable rumors. Remember, we're talking about actual corruption here, which is a serious charge. It's not just "this site is doing something I don't like" or "the politics of this writer shine through and are different from my own," neither of which is necessarily corruption. Corruption means a journalist being bought, or bribed, or blackmailed, or money changing hands beyond an agreed commission or contract. But when someone falsely ascribes corruption to a journalist's actions without tangible evidence, it has a "boy who cried wolf" effect that makes it extremely difficult to take anything else that person has to say seriously.

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Did you feel pressure not to write about Gamergate in the early start of the controversy?

I didn't really feel pressure not to write about Gamergate early on. That may partially be because I am a freelance writer and not writing daily news at any outlet, so I generally don't have editors breathing down my neck about anything, much less about Gamergate. I also wasn't pitching any Gamergate-related articles to any editors, so I didn't experience editors rejecting articles about Gamergate. My talking about Gamergate was pretty much just on Twitter and here on ask.fm, where I'm my own boss.

I will say though, and this was really weird, but Alexander Macris of Defy Media sent me a few DMs on twitter a while back trying about Gamergate. It was through this weird analogy saying Yitzhak Rabin won a Nobel Peace Prize for making peace with Yasir Arafat and the PLO, an analogy in which Gamergate is the PLO and journalists who make concessions for Gamergate are Rabin. I responded that I was disgusted with how The Escapist has bent over backwards to appease Gamergate, and he replied by apologizing for offending me. This was back in mid-September.

This is the closest I've experienced to pressure to talk less about Gamergate. What was weird about it is that I don't even write for any Defy Media publications. I wrote for GameFront briefly in 2013 before it was a part of Defy Media, but I lost touch of my working relationship them when they restructured during the Defy Media merger. Then when Defy Media fired the staff of GameTrailers right at the end of E3 earlier this year I publicly made it clear that it was a company I did not want to work with. So the only thing resembling pressure to talk less about Gamergate came from an editor who has no authority over me, and whose advice I clearly did not take. There was no threat of consequences, nor could there have been authority to deal out consequences, so I wouldn't even qualify it as "pressure." And just to be clear, I do not think it was part of any conspiracy to silence dissent to Gamergate, but simply one professional offering advice to a professional peer.

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"First, I can only speak for myself. I don't represent the group, none of us do. We are a group of individuals, not a homogeneous blob. " This is what we've been saying about the harassment #GamerGate is being blamed with. You might not have wrote any hit pieces, but it's funny to see this defense.

Here's the thing, the GameJournoPros group never claimed to be a movement or a cause. It never claimed to have a purpose beyond facilitating discussion and debate between individuals.

Gamergate, on the other hand, does claim to be a movement. And with that claim comes the association of values from other people within the movement. That is the power of a movement, it allows a message to be amplified by a unified voice. But that is also the danger of a movement, since members are trading their individual voice for the voice of the group.

It's a lesson I learned a few years ago, back when I was still very active in gay rights activisim. However, I found that much of gay rights activism was very binary-focused, with messages that I found rather insulting as a bisexual man. So, I disassociated myself from those causes. I still do work independently on LGBT issues, but I do not do so as a member of any group where I do not agree with their overall message.

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How can you say no to a conspiracy when you see a narrative being pushed through as e.g. Ben K. is doing in the parts that have been put out to public view?

This is an older question that I'm coming back to, and it refers to Ben Kuchera suggesting to Greg Tito to moderate and delete some threads on The Escapist relating to Zoe Quinn that consisted of people just ganging up and talking shit in increasingly violent and volatile ways when the whole mess was getting started.

I still don't see how it can be construed as a conspiracy though. Ben made a suggestion, and under the comment moderation policies on his own site the suggestion made sense. Greg, or anyone at The Escapist, was under no obligation to follow the suggestion though. And in the end the suggestion wasn't followed. There is no obligation, nor has there ever been any obligation, to follow the advice of anyone else in the GameJournoPros group.

Even under the most lax definition of a conspiracy, advice offered by a professional peer that you can take or leave at your own discretion without consequences does not qualify as a conspiracy.

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Ask @ScottNichols:

About Scott Nichols:

Freelance game critic and narrative designer. Writing mostly at Digital Spy, and sporadically everywhere else. My twitter handle is actually @Duckols, not @ScottNichols.

Chicago, IL

http://gamerlymusings.wordpress.com/